Last year when Indiana started their playoff run, most — if not all — the major sports analysts were touting them as one of the deepest teams. When it came to the reserves, fans could regularly and consistently count on a solid defensive effort from a unit that could also at times put points on the board.
Or so went the story. The playoffs made that notion illusory.
Plus, a lot has changed since last year.
The one glaring alteration to the team’s makeup this season is the loss of Granger and ultimately the promotion of Lance Stephenson. Although Lance has been a very nice surprise to many Pacers fans, you will never hear anyone argue that he is Danny. Moreover, it would have been an incredible benefit to have Lance take the reins as the scorer for the squad.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Last year’s bench featured Leandro Barbosa for some shooter/scoring punch (acquired midseason from Toronto), Tyler Hansbrough playing consistently at the big forward spot, Lou Amundsen playing out position at backup center, and Darren Collison, the waterbug who added some much needed starter-in-this-league experience.
This year, the cast has changed and there isn’t much to rely on.
There is too much to say about the coming series against New York and how the reserves might perform, but let’s start by looking at how each backup player did throughout the Hawks vs. Pacers series.
How they Played vs. The Hawks
He got quite a few minutes in Game 6 but went 1-for-6 shooting. Made some helpful plays, but just couldn’t seem to put it all together. I think that is why Vogel kept him in for as long as he did, just waiting for something to happen. He needs to do more with the opportunities that he is given. Played well in Games 1 through 5. He made 3s consistently and made the Hawks well aware of his presence. Or should I say presents? At times he tried to make things happen that weren’t there like driving to the lane to pass it off to a player that isn’t open, or crossing over multiple times to no affect.
He got into foul trouble, which wasn’t helpful in Game 6, but racked up some points in the 6 minutes that he played. Scrapped and got Psycho with it as usual the whole series. In Game 5, he had 3 turnovers in 13 minutes. He was arguably the best Pacer in game 3 in a blowout loss, however, so that counts for something. You have to remind yourself that you cannot love and hate something/someone for the same reason. I refer to this as the “Dickie’s Pants philosophy.” They feel like cardboard and are about as comfortable as a Brillo pad but damned if they are not nearly indestructible and worth every penny. Made me laugh when the Hawks couldn’t figure this guy out.
He did OK in Game 6, but didn’t do anything good or bad. He looked like a D-leaguer when matched up against Josh Smith at times throughout the series. If New York goes with a two-big set if/when Amar’e Stoudemire gets back, his value will be essential. The chemistry seemed a bit off when playing long side Tyler during the last series.
Near terrible in Game 6. As long as Pendergraph is playing well on a bad Ian night, it shouldn’t be the end of the world (this could go both ways). Played very effectively when Hibbert was in foul trouble early and throughout in Game 4, but saw little action prior. The defense has more or less been there but the points have not. The one thing that he does add is speed getting back to the other end while Roy is out. This variable alone adds value. He looked rusty, which definitely isn’t a good thing knowing that Hibbert will more than likely be getting into foul trouble going up against Chandler. The team will need a lot more from him going further.
It should be troubling your mind that he isn’t getting more minutes. Sure, he is a rookie, in the playoffs, but it still doesn’t make any sense to limit his minutes by this much. He can score a few points.
He played fairly well in the beginning of the series and made shots, which warrants him a little more playing time over Pulp. Also had some nice runs of good play with the extended minutes but, again, they were garbage minutes.
Sam Young & Ben Hansbrough
They logged a total of 9 minutes combined all in blowouts. Nothing to really write about here.
Head-to-Head vs. The Knicks
Coach Vogel went with strange lineups in Game 5, which was obviously effective. He took Gerald Green out the rotation and put Mahinmi back in. The only real questions that have to be asked is why wasn’t he doing it in the first place, and where is Orlando Johnson? Newsday reported earlier that Stoudemire (knee) will not play Games 1 and 2 of the Knicks’ second-round series against the Pacers but could return to the court for next Saturday’s Game 3 which will definitely have an effect on the reserves play. A little food for thought, what should Indiana expect from reserves vs. New York?
The best of the reserves during the regular season vs. the Knicks:
Sun Nov 18th L 76 – 88 @ NY
Of course this was during the nascent stages of the season when they were just figuring out how to get along with their captain. This was also during the dismal start before Indiana really obtained their 2012 – 2013 identity. The most effective bench player was probably Tyler Hansbrough getting 8 rebounds and 5 points in 19 minutes.
Tues Jan 10th W 81 – 76 @ Home
This game should sort of set you at ease if you are worried about New York’s interior if our starting bigs get into trouble. Ian Mahinmi had a stellar game going for 13 points, 6 boards, in 20 Min. If you remember, Hibbert did not get a lot of playing time due to back spasms, and Ian filled in nicely. Tyler had a decent night despite 1 – 8 FG. Pendergraph didn’t have a lot minutes but played effectively for what was given.
Wed Feb 20th W 125 – 91 @ Home
As the Edwin Hawkins Singers would say “Oh Happy Day”. This game justified a lot of pain & anguish that comes along with being a Pacers fan over the years. The reserves played brilliantly. Jeff Pendergraph, went for 7 REB, 2 AST, and 9 PTS in 23 minutes. Hey, even O.J. got 14 minutes of playing time.
Sunday April 14th L 90 – 80 @ NY – Hansbrough played pretty bad. His +/- was – 18 if that gives you an idea. Sam Young fouled Anthony pretty hard which sent him to the locker room. As a whole team, Indiana committed 26 turnovers that led to 33 points and shot just under 62 percent at the free throw line (Tyler having 5 of those TO, and 1-4 FTM). On the positive side Pendergraph played some wholesome minutes, was solid at the line, with 12 pts over all.
Like the old saying goes, the playoffs are a whole different ball game. Teams play completely different and team defense is elevated to an entirely new realm.
A lot of fans forget the simple notion of trial and error. Teams are able to fine tune their lineups and style of play over a period of at least four games. There is always that one bench player, in a game, in a series, or the playoffs in its entirety that shines. I always wait for that “break out” player that has been hiding behind the pine all season.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope that he is wearing a Blue & Gold jersey.